Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The Fun Factor

Harvey Mackay is one of my favorite mentors. He wrote this a couple weeks ago:

Fun and work go hand in hand

By Harvey Mackay

In his book, The 13 Secrets of Power Performance, author and trainer Roger Dawson tells the story of a meeting between two iconic figures in the restaurant industry: Tom Monaghan, CEO and founder of Domino's Pizza, and Ray Kroc, CEO of McDonald's.

Kroc's assistant had scheduled a 15-minute meeting, but it turned into a 2 1/2-hour mutual admiration session. Kroc peppered Monaghan with questions about his operation and impressed Monaghan with how quickly he caught on. "In no time at all he understood Domino's as well as anyone except me," Monaghan said.

Finally, Kroc leaned forward in his chair. "I'm going to give you some advice," he said. "You have it made now. You can do anything you want; make all the money you can possibly spend. So what I think you should do now is slow down. Take it easy. Open a few stores every year, but be careful. Don't make any new deals that could get you into trouble. Play it safe."

Such conservatism was the last thing Monaghan expected to hear from his hero. After a moment of indecision he blurted out, "But that wouldn't be any fun!"

Kroc broke into a huge grin and shook Monaghan's hand. "That's just what I hoped you'd say!"

CEOs should appreciate the value of fun at work -- and they shouldn't reserve it just for themselves. The smart ones recognize the importance of a positive work environment which encourages fun.

For example, Microsoft founder Bill Gates was asked if he were graduating from college at that point, would he go to work for Microsoft or start his own company. After reminding the audience that he never graduated from college, Harvard's most famous dropout pointed out how incredibly important it is for companies to make work "as fun and interesting" as possible for employees.

When a management research company asked the employees at Southwest Airlines what mattered most about their jobs, they discovered that "having fun at work" was at the top of the list. More predictable items followed: "manage in the good times for the bad times, keep a warrior spirit, informal is comfortable, minimize paperwork, dare to be different and do whatever it takes."

I love this quote from motivational speaker Jody Urquhart. She says there are three ways to motivate people to work harder, faster and smarter: threaten them, pay them lots of money or make their work fun. She quickly eliminates the first two options as ineffective. But making their work fun, she says, "has a track record of effecting real change." Why? "Creativity, intuition and flexibility are key to successful operation of organizations today. In stimulating environments, employees enjoy their time at work and they will also excel at work. Attracting customers is easier in an environment of hospitality. A fun workplace is not only more productive, but it attracts people and profits."

First among Urquhart's thirteen steps to creating a fun workplace is "Give up the notion that professionalism means being serious all the time."

Because I am first and foremost a salesman, I understand the importance of being able to relate to my customers. They all appreciate a good (clean) joke or story, which I make sure to have ready before I call.

Also on the list is "Define what fun is in your workplace and what it is not." Clear guidelines will ensure that employees know where to draw the line.

Another recommendation is "Encourage staff to leave work behind them at the end of the day." A sensible suggestion, I believe, because employees should be able to have time to have fun away from work too.

For years at our company, our motto has been "TGIM" -- Thank God It's Monday. We want our employees to look forward to coming to work as much as I do. That starts with hiring. After integrity, I am most impressed with a good sense of humor during interviews, an indication that the person can communicate comfortably and get along with co-workers and customers.

We will always take our work seriously, and our customers' needs seriously, but what we do isn't brain surgery.

So have you heard about the anesthesiologist who sings to his patients before surgery? It relaxes them and also makes his job fun -- and patients ask for the "singing anesthesiologist" all the time. I wonder if he takes requests!

Mackay's Moral: Work should be fun, but fun shouldn't be work.

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